Congress, BJP gear up for Rajasthan duel

Rajasthan is poised for a close fight between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP in the December 1 Assembly election. 

If the BJP lost out narrowly to the Congress last time due to factionalism, this time around they are united in their purpose of throwing out the Gehlot government in the state, highlighting its failures and poor governance. 

Congress hopes that sops and freebies would give them another term which is unprecedented in the history of the desert state in the last two decades. No ruling party got elected to a second consecutive term ever since the BJP emerged as a major political force in the state. 

Locally, development issues, law and order, electricity, water and roads are the dominant factors. National issues such as price rise, corruption and perception of a weak leadership are adding to the woes of the Congress.

The BJP sees a real chance to wrest power, eager to cash in double anti-incumbency. The party’s leaders claim people are fed up of poor governance of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre as well as Gehlot’s government.

Divided house

In the last Assembly polls, the BJP was a badly divided house. Internal squabbles and resentment towards Raje were to a large extent responsible for its defeat.

The BJP had got 78 seats compared to the Congress which got 96. Wrong ticket distribution and Raje’s autocratic style of functioning resulted in alienating many party leaders and eventually led to party’s defeat. 

Though resentment against Raje has not died down completely, the BJP leadership  has adopted a more inclusive approach this time to decide on tickets.

Raje and other senior leaders have been taking feedback from all districts and local sentiments are being considered while choosing the candidates.

Raje, during her statewide Suraj Sankalp Yatra, constantly raised the issues of poor law and order, increasing crime against women, inadequate power and water supply, bad roads and overall lack of governance.

Development mantra

Gehlot, however, is banking on the multiple development measures announced by his government to pay electoral dividends.

The Congress is highlighting welfare measures such as free medicines, free medical tests, providing scholarships and laptop to meritorious students and pension to those above 65 years.

He also hopes to reap the benefits of the Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana and BPL housing scheme. The government is also showcasing big-ticket projects such as the Barmer refinery, the Jaipur Metro, IIT, IIM and AIIMS to garner support.

However, there are dissidents who have questioned Gehlot’s leadership. There is some concern in the party about Muslims, Jat and Gujjar votes. The communities are unhappy with the government over perceived injustices.

Muslims are angry about the Gopalgarh firing and many communal clashes that occurred during the Congress rule. 

The Jats in Marwar region are upset with their leaders Mahipal Maderna and Malkhan Singh languishing in jail in connection with the murder case of Bhanwari Devi.

Gujjar discontent continues over the denial of reservation to them. Other parties are likely to have only a localised impact.

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